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10 Steps to Your Next Promotion

"Big jobs usually go to the person who proves their ability to outgrow small ones." ~Theodore Roosevelt

"Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity." ~Reed Markham

How is it exactly that some people seem to get promotion after promotion, while others who seem to show plenty of potential just stay right where they are? It’s because there are tactics that successful people use on the job to ensure they are in the discussion of candidates and are ultimately selected.

One method that is often talked about in working towards that next promotion is to ask your boss what they are looking for in a candidate for promotion. This sounds like rock-solid advice, but the problem is that bosses almost never give a constructive answer to this question. They say things like, “Just make sure you make your numbers and give 110%.” What successful people do is answer that question for their boss and take action on those things. They don’t work haphazardly on being the best at things, they work on being the best at the things that matter.

If you are able to work these tactics into your routine on the job, you too could find yourself in the crowd that keeps getting looked at to rise through the ranks.

Worry about what your boss worries about – Have you ever taken work to your boss only to have them ask about something else? That’s the opposite of what we’re looking for here. Aligning your priorities with your boss’s priorities ensures that you’re not only doing what they want, but shows that you know how to set the right priorities yourself which is critical in any leadership position. While your boss may not clearly relay what their priorities are, successful people pay attention to what their boss talks about and focuses on, and over time are able to fill in the blanks and align their actions accordingly.

Always be acquiring new skills – If you’re not learning you’re dying in your career. People who get promoted show their value not only in the skills required to do their job, but in a variety of skills outside the scope of their current job. Surprising your boss with knowledge you have reassures them that you have the ability to learn which is key to success in any position. If you’re able to match some of those skills to the job you are looking for, then all the better. You can pick up skills anywhere you like in the organization simply by paying attention to how other people do their job, whether that’s Marketing, I.T., Finance or any other. Simply pay attention and ask questions, most people don’t mind a break in the day to walk you through some of the basics (especially if you entice them with the idea you might be able to do it yourself next time and save them work). Other skills like Excel, PowerPoint or other systems your organization uses can almost always be supplemented with online learning, or even a course that your organization covers.

Ask to help – Those who get promoted are a resource for their boss. If you want experience in doing “next level” work, why not ask to help with some. Your boss likely has tasks that match with your skillsets on some level and it gives you even more exposure to them and their work. Just ask your boss, and then ask them a few more times so they know you’re serious.

Self-promotion – Successful people don’t wait for things to just “happen”, they take action to make things happen. The first thing you want to do is to let your boss know that you are interested. This is where asking your boss that question, “What are you looking for in a candidate for promotion?” serves you as it puts them on notice that you are interested. The other thing you want to do is to publicize your successes. I’m not talking about bragging; I’m talking about making your boss aware of “progress” that is being made in the department. There are dozens of ways to ensure your successes are brought to the attention of others without being seeming to be out of line. Find some.

Have solutions to problems – You will come across problems, you will make mistakes, but successful people have solutions, they don’t bring their problems to their boss without an idea of how to solve them. If you want a promotion you need to learn to be responsible for finding solutions to problems that arise. That’s what a leader is largely responsible for. While you don’t want to wait to bring issues to the attention of your boss, spending at least a little time thinking about possible solutions before stepping into their office is often all it takes. And if you can’t come up with one you like, you can always present the solutions to your boss for consideration. That is the next best thing.

Quantify results – One thing that all leaders have in common is that they hear a lot of “fluff” about how good things are all of the time, but they know that talk is cheap. What you need to do is to put some numbers behind your accomplishments to give them substance. The ability to put together a report to track progress changes your talk into reality. One of the keys to doing this is to think about it as early in the process as possible. Oftentimes if you wait until the project is over, it’s too late to be able to measure the effect.

Act as if you’re already there – The most common application of this principle is to dress for the position you want to have, not the position you currently have. But it goes much further than that, you need to carry yourself like a leader. That means you have a positive and constructive attitude, you don’t get caught up in the drama of other coworkers, and you know what is appropriate in the workplace and what is not. If you need examples, just look to the leadership of your organization. While they might individually still have some faults, collectively you can piece together what you need to do.

Create your path – Here’s a secret: many of the people who are promoted, are promoted into positions that didn’t exist before. The way that they accomplished this is by creating and adding value to their current position to the point that it warranted a redefinition. They volunteer to take on extra duties, they come up with innovations and bring them to life, and they use their strengths in new ways to help the organization. The next time a new project comes up, volunteer to take it on even if it doesn’t fall exactly in your area of responsibility.

Work hard AND smart – Perhaps the most obvious tactic for promotion, but one that always bears mentioning as there are no shortcuts. It isn’t just about working hard or working smart, you need to do both. You want to emulate the work habits of those who are already successful in your organization. That means that you put in the hours to get the work done, but you also prioritize important tasks over small ones, and that you are always looking for ways to improve processes and procedures so that even more work gets done.

Create a plan – Having a goal is great, but what you really need is to create a plan to get there. Successful people create action steps that bridge where they are with where they want to be. Utilizing these tactics is fine, but coordinating how you use them to reach the promotion you are looking for can separate success from failure:

·         Where are you? Every map has a starting place, and you need to be clear on where you are starting before you start taking “lefts and rights” toward your destination.

·         Why are you there? What skills do you have in your “toolkit?” In other words, what strengths do you have that got you to where you are?

·         Where do you want to be? Just like being clear on where you start, you need to be crystal clear on where you are going. “Getting promoted” isn’t specific enough, you need to be clear on exactly which position you are shooting for so that you can figure out what traits a successful person in that position has and align your strengths, address any weaknesses and start filling the gaps.

·         How do you get there? Not all skills are created equal and not all of these tactics are going to be weighted equally in you reaching your goal. You need to clearly lay out the priorities of what you are going to do and going to work on to get the promotion. Actions with deadlines will be the key things to come out of this exercise and the stepping stones to the next level in your career.

People who get promoted do so through willful action. If you are able to put these tactics in place alongside already excellent work performance you will be well on your way to climbing the organizational ladder.

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10 Things You Must Do If You Have a Crummy Boss

"Either you deal with what is the reality or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you." ~Alex Haley

"Deal with the world the way it is, not the way you wish it was." ~John Chambers

More than half of workers, whether in leadership or the front lines of the organization, site a “bad boss” as the worst part of their current job. The reasons for the prevalence of bad bosses are numerous; lack of training, poor fit for the position, lack of accountability from their boss, poor emotional intelligence, etc. Bad bosses also come in a variety of “flavors” from the angry boss, to the aloof boss, to the micromanager, and even a clueless boss.

If you have a great boss now, then fantastic. Odds are, however, that at some point in your career you will face off against a poor leader. How you handle that boss will go a long way to determining how far you go in your career. If managed poorly, a horrible boss can drain the life out of your career.

So what do you do to ensure you are able to continue to progress even with the handicap of a leader who doesn’t support you effectively?

Keep talking to them – It is natural to simply not want to deal with a boss who is angry or incompetent, but isolating yourself from your boss cuts you out of any benefit you can gain from them, and often arouses suspicion on their behalf. You need to stay engaged with them, even if they aren’t putting forth the effort. Your boss has access to information on where the organization is going, what opportunities are out there, what the expectations are, and a myriad of other information that is essential for your career. Limit access to that at your peril.

Focus on yourself – If you want to be successful in the employ of a bad boss you need to make you’re your own performance is exceptional. Your role doesn’t change based on the quality of your leader. If you want to overcome a bad boss, you need to maintain your high standards. For those under a boss who suffers from fits of anger and perfectionism this might seem somewhat obvious, but one of the worst traps an employee can fall into is excusing their own poor performance by referencing the poor performance of the leader. Lowering your standards at any point is stalling your career.

Know what they care about – One of the main reasons that certain bosses are terrible is that they are naturally poor communicators. This creates huge conflicts in priorities as nobody understands what they should be working on. This is an instance where you can take control over your surroundings by working out the clues of what your boss finds important. Ensuring that you take care of the things that are important to them helps you prioritize your work and builds trust between you and your boss.

Find a mentor elsewhere – While your current boss should be your mentor, there is no reason you can’t look elsewhere. It may be a team leader, an exceptional peer of yours, or a peer of your boss’s. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, one of the reasons that poor leadership is so pervasive is that nobody receives any training. Finding a mentor is essential to your career development and helps to ensure that you don’t fall into your boss’s category of leadership.

One other note; it is common to not be able to find a mentor in an organization. In those cases, I always recommend that you “pick and choose” traits from potential members that they are particularly strong at. There’s no reason that you can’t have the best of all worlds.

Cover their weaknesses – It’s easy to start griping and whining about your boss’s weaknesses, it’s quite different to do something about it and help them address them. Poor organization, difficulty making decisions, lack of trust, are all very common weaknesses of bad bosses, and are ones that you can help address through your behavior and preparation. The surest way to get a promotion is to help your boss be successful and take over for them when they move on. Don’t sit back and whine about how bad your boss is, do something about it and seize the opportunity to be indispensable to your boss. Being a resource for a bad boss often alleviates many other issues you may face under their employ.

Speak up and don’t cower – Bad bosses often resort to intimidation. It’s important for your long term health in the organization to not just “cave” as soon as they put their foot down. We aren’t looking for defiance either, just a bit of a backbone behind your actions and ideas. You won’t gain their respect by cowering to their every whim, you will only encourage them to bully you more.

You also want to make sure that them not listening doesn’t dull your willingness to share ideas. Leaders in the making have ideas, and whether your direct boss hears you or not, your peers will and that will eventually disseminate through the organization.

Keep back-up – Of course you will keep your e-mails, but it is also worthwhile to keep notes of your boss’s requests and directives. Bad bosses suffer from constant and convenient memory loss on things (especially those things that aren’t going well). Having the back-up will show to them that you are organized, follow directives and aren’t as incompetent as they may have been insinuating. Obviously you don’t want to just throw it in their face, but finding a way to reference what was said before is usually more than enough. Once you’ve done this a few times, the need to reference the back-up usually decreases.

Set reasonable boundaries – For the boss who wants to be too much of a friend to the boss who wants to interrupt your vacation, you owe it to yourself to set boundaries with every boss. This ensures a healthy environment at work for you. Now part of having “reasonable” boundaries is the need to have some flexibility built into them for the natural flow of business, and they also need to have exceptions built into them for emergencies (but of course these need to be true exceptions). Too often we encourage this behavior in our bosses by responding to e-mails after 9pm and on vacation. Encourage reasonable boundaries instead of giving control over to your boss.

Learn what not to do – Every leader you have is a tutor. And if you’re paying attention, every single one will teach you things you should do and shouldn’t do. Sometimes it’s actually harder for us to learn from a boss who does everything right because it comes across as easy. A horrible boss is apt to make more mistakes, which allows you to learn from them before you make them yourself.

Be ready to leave – Life is too short to go to a job that makes you miserable every day. So at least prepare to leave, take a look at your job duties and see if there are any areas where you could gain experience while you are there. Listen for other opportunities in the organization. There is something to be gained in every situation, you just need to find it.

Every difficult situation has opportunities within it and your employment under a horrible boss is no different. If you are able to capitalize on those opportunities by dealing with the situation in the right way, you can ensure that your career path doesn’t skip a beat.



Top 20 Questions Great Leaders Ask Themselves Daily

"A single question can be more influential than a thousand statements." ~Bo Bennett

"Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers." ~Tony Robbins

The questions we ask ourselves and the answers we come up with shape our future. When we look back on this process we tend to focus more on the answers, and less on the questions. After all, the answer is where we made the choice between alternatives and that choice, good or bad, had its effect on us. But there are no answers without questions, and we all have far more flexibility in the quality of the questions than we believe.

One of the reasons that great leaders are great is that they choose the right questions to ask and the frequency with which they ask them. This practice forces them into coming up with the right answers, at the right time.

So what questions are great leaders asking themselves?

1.       What is everybody thinking, but nobody has the courage to say? The proverbial “elephant in the room” can be a barrier that halts communication and progress until it is removed.

2.       What do you need from me in order to help you reach your full potential? Great leaders serve their team by providing the right tools to do their job and developing team members into the leaders of the future.

3.       How can I learn from this? A question to be asked during a struggle or a success so that you can develop your own leadership.

4.       If we weren’t going to behave, what would we do? Some rules are outdated and need to be cast aside. Some systems and processes are the same. Often they are just waiting for the right reason to be changed, and this question can inspire that reason.

5.       What skills will my team need in 6 months to a year? Continuous development of the team to meet the goals of the organization helps ensure the success of those goals.

6.       Is this the best use of my time? Priorities are at the heart of time management and productivity.

7.       What if it was an AND, and not an OR? Too many times we are making choices when we don’t need to and slowing down the progress that we could achieve.

8.       Have I publicly acknowledged and recognized a team member’s success today? As Tom Peters says, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Your team member’s individual success leads to your success as a leader.

9.       What can we do better? A leader’s job is to improve things, not maintain the status quo. And there is always something that can be done better.

10.   If someone was going to come along and put us out of business, what would he or she do? Organizations are often most vulnerable when they are at the height of their success. Always be looking to the next thing, because someone out there is as well.

11.   How is the energy level on the team, myself included? Passion fuels great effort, and a by-product of passion is energy. Keep a pulse of the energy and you’ll see when you need to re-ignite everyone’s passion.

12.   Am I being patient or indecisive? There’s a difference, and it’s easy for a leader to slip into the wrong one.

13.   What if we did the opposite? A great question to ask to open up brainstorming and innovative ideas.

14.   What do you think about _________? Great leaders ask this question constantly with team members, peers, customers, and their boss. This question empowers and values others and ensures you have as much information as possible to make the right decision.

15.   Are we having fun? People can’t be at their best if they aren’t enjoying the challenge. Sometimes you will need to lighten the mood, and sometimes you just need a better challenge.

16.   What are the three things that are holding us back right now? Address them and your progress will naturally speed up.

17.   How can I help you?  Great leaders serve…EVERYONE!

18.   If there were zero chance of failure, what would we do? The classic brainstorming question, but one that great leaders ask in all situations to focus on making the most progress possible and getting the best out of their team.

19.   If we could start over with a blank slate, what would we do differently? “Sacred cows” are those things in organizations that everyone understands can’t be changed (systems, locations, personnel, products, etc.). The thing is that they can all be changed if the reason to do so is strong enough. Don’t constrain your thinking too early, you can always reign it in later.

20.   Why? When you don’t know what to ask, this is always a great choice. There is also a classic leadership maxim that if you are presented with a problem and ask “Why” through five layers of depth you will always come up with the answer.

Based on this list you might think that great leaders spend their whole day asking themselves questions. And you know what? You’d be right.



Your Top 9 Confidence Boosters (Because You're Awesome!)

"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." ~Arthur Ashe

"Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong." ~Peter T. Mcintyre

One of the things that all great leaders have is confidence. It speeds decision making, makes you a better risk taker, and builds trust among your employees, peers and boss. Some people naturally have tons of it (too much in some cases), while others have always struggled with it. Whether you have a little or a lot, a boost in your confidence often coincides with an uptick in productivity and effectiveness.

So like everything that effects performance, if you want to improve you’ll need to take action. I wanted to go over some of the best ways to boost that confidence when you’re in a “lull” or if you build it from scratch.

Have goals – How confident are you when you don’t know where you’re going? One of the basics of having confidence is direction towards and through something. Progress towards a goal builds momentum in energy, in focus and in confidence. If you aren’t clear on the outcome you are looking for, not only in the specific task, but how everything fits into larger goals and your purpose, you’ll be more apt to struggle moving forward. A strong sense of purpose gives great leaders confidence as they move through their days.

Reflect on success – We all tend to obsess about our failures. Part of that is the healthy learning that comes from it, but if our mistakes take up too much space in our internal monologue it can become debilitating to our confidence. I’m quite positive that you have successes flowing from you on a daily basis, it’s just that we pay little attention to them for a variety of reasons. It is never more important to be able to refer to your success than when you are questioning whether you have what it takes to succeed in the next endeavor.

Do this little exercise once a week to give your confidence a boost and over time to create a strong foundation of confidence. Take out a sheet of paper and write down any successes that you had last month. Anything at all, no matter how small. If you’re a leader, you can put down team successes where you had some input. Once you have 5-10 things from last month, write down 5-10 successes you had last week. Again, it can be small and somewhat routine things like handling a difficult customer interaction or cleaning out your Inbox (I realize that’s a BIG thing to many). Once you have that 5-10 down, write down 3-5 successes you had yesterday. We want to push you in this exercise to see all of the little things you do right on a regular basis. Look to do this exercise once a week and you’ll give yourself the ammunition to boldly move through your days.

Be thankful – Gratitude has a number of benefits and one of them is freeing you from many of the false perceptions that build up in your mind. Human nature dictates that we rarely stay satisfied with our present situation for very long, which causes us to create concerns where there shouldn’t necessarily be any. Being thankful for those things we take for granted resets our equilibrium, brings to light our successes, and provides us with strength and confidence to move forward.

Prepare – The best way to be confident is to prepare rigorously for everything that you may face. While preparing for EVERYTHING is somewhat ridiculous and counter-productive, great preparation makes things not only easier for you, but ensures that you and everyone get as much out of the interaction, project or task as possible. When all else fails in confidence, make preparations towards your goals.

Mind your body – There is a lot to be said for the bond between our physical and mental well-being. Getting exercise, standing up straighter, deep breathing and dressing in our best outfit all help with our sense of confidence. And they are all tools you can pull out at any time to use to boost your confidence. If you see any on the list above that you are neglecting or that you could improve, that makes for a great place to start.

Get out – I don’t just mean getting a breath of fresh air in the middle of your day, I mean getting out of the house on the weekends or in the evenings. Fill your days interacting with people and things. The more isolated and routine you make your days, the more of a strain you’ll have on confidence. Heading out with friends is great. Even movies, shopping, browsing bookstores, heading to a park, anything at all that keeps you from isolation and increases the chance of interaction.

Also, the simple act of talking to people when you have regular interactions can affect the ease (confidence) you have in interacting with everyone. So chat with the cashier at the convenience store, the waitress at the restaurant. It’s polite, and you’ll get something out of it.

Challenge yourself – Challenges encourage us to bring out our best and discover things about ourselves. If you haven’t challenged yourself to do more, even with your current tasks and projects, you’re selling yourself and your confidence short. Try reaching for a new record in daily sales, in calls answered, invoices processed, people trained, whatever it may be. Where challenges get kicked into high gear is when they are coupled with challenges to utilize skills you never have before. When you can overcome the fear of tackling something new and different, the by-product is a huge boost to your confidence.

Smile – A smile conveys confidence better than anything and lifts your mood. When others see you smiling they will be more apt to TREAT you like a confident person. Our surroundings can have a profound impact on us. Think about that time your boss gave you the “look” of disapproval? Were you confident in that moment? The same works in reverse. When you get the positive feedback from your coworkers you are far more empowered.

Compliment others – If you want to “get” something, one of the best ways to do so is to “give” it freely. Compliments on anything make people feel better about themselves. Of course, what science will tell you is that happier people are more generous than those who aren’t. So you feel better about yourself, are more apt to get compliments in return, and you reciprocally feel the power you have to influence others in a positive way

If you want more of something you need to spend the effort to focus on it. Your confidence touches almost every aspect of your work life, so it makes sense to take a few of the above concepts above where you feel you could improve and integrate them into your week. Even just one step forward can mean a huge difference.



Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Stress at Work

"The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership." ~Jim Loehr

How you deal with the stress and infuriating situations that come along with any work environment will go a long way towards determining how successful you are in your career. It isn’t just that it looks horrible when you fly off the handle or run around in a stress induced frenzy (though neither of those scream out, “Put this person in a position to take on even more responsibility since they are handling what they currently have so well”). It’s that staying calm brings out our best efforts. Now some may say that the pressure of a deadline makes them more productive, and certainly it can focus you, but it can also result in you cutting corners and putting forth substandard work.

People find ways to calm themselves down in a number of ways, and you may have some personalized ways that you do it, but below are the ways that will usually work for any of us.

The next right choice – When things get stressful or go wrong, you want to learn from them, but you don’t want to dwell on them. You can’t get through a tough time without taking action. In this case, focus on the next thing that you need to do, and make sure that you do it to the best of your ability. What you want to stay away from is the endless circle of “what-ifs”. Staying in tune with what you can do right is key.

Find an outlet for frustration – In this case you want it to be as positive of an outlet as possible. One of the reasons that exercise is so important to everyone is that it has a natural calming influence over our body (as well as all of the other health benefits). Maybe you write an e-mail that you don’t send to vent. Perhaps you speak to a friend or loved one about the situation. Since we know that there will be moments of frustration that you need to calm down from, you need to understand what you have at your disposal to blow off steam before it boils over.

Find your triggers – We all have certain things that frustrate us more than other. There are also lots of times where you can see the crisis or emergency on the horizon. If you know what triggers stress and frustration ahead of time, you can take measures to address it and be ready for it so that it doesn’t throw you off as much. Get calm BEFORE the storm.

They say “No” – If you want to remain calm, you need to get good at prioritizing. Saying “yes” all of the time is easy, but quickly gets overwhelming. It also leaves you susceptible to working on, and being stressed by, little things which affect your output on larger things. When someone comes to you to put something on your plate, simply state what you are working on now, and maybe next, and let them know a timeframe. Oftentimes they will take it to someone else who can do it quicker, or they will at least understand your timeframes which reduces the pressure.

Don’t fall for the “panic trap” – Just because someone else is panicky and stressed doesn’t mean you need to be. Mirroring the mood of others is a natural way for you to look to communicate with them better, but can be counterproductive to your work depending on what mood it is. Maintain your calm in the face of panic and you will not only produce better work, but just might be able to calm down the other person who is apt to mirror your mood as well.

Life outside of work – When work is your whole world you put more pressure on it to go perfectly. This creates a lot of stress. It also eliminates one of the best “pressure valves” for stress which is fun outside of work. When you find yourself more stressed, it is all the more important for you to cultivate hobbies and relationships outside of work.

Don’t get negative – Negativity breeds more negativity, and often begets more stress. Find something positive to latch onto, whether a past success, the simple “win” you can accomplish right away, or anything else to break the cycle. Recognize your pattern and break it.

Don’t put yourself in a box – When we are stressed out we will often begin associating our surrounding with that stress. Taking a break and changing the environment, even briefly, can reset this association so that you can get back to work in a more productive way.

Mind the Body – Calm and stress have a physical component to them. One of the best ways to stay calm is to preventatively take care of your body to make it more resistant to stress in the first place. Getting exercise and the right amount of sleep can keep stress at bay. And when you need to regain your calm, skip that cup of coffee. Coffee is a natural stimulant that elevates our levels of excitability. Switch to tea, or a soda, when you’re in need of calm. The lower caffeine content will help.

Use the support system – People remain calm when they recognize the huge amount of resources that they have backing them up. Talk through your difficulties with a trusted colleague or friend. They may have the answers to your difficulties. When things get really crazy you can always delegate to your team to get something off your plate and focus you on higher priority items.

When you’re feeling stressed, there’s no reason to stay that way. Find out which f the above techniques work for you and thrive!



Top 10 Ways a Vacation Makes You Better at Your Job

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action." ~Peter Drucker

“You can always make money. You can’t always make memories.” ~Unknown

Today’s work environment is overstuffed with priorities, commitments, projects and other drains on your time. Add to this the constant connectivity you have to work and you are likely of the opinion you could use a vacation. But guess what? Most people don’t use their vacation time. Workers, on average, fail to use nearly five vacation days a year, the U.S. Travel Association found.

In many cases you may face an organization or a boss who overtly or passively-aggressively discourages you to take vacation. They roll their eyes at the request, pile on work before or after, deny the request for “business reasons”, or bombard you with emails and texts when you actually do escape.

In other cases, you may actually talk yourself out of taking your vacation all by yourself. The most common refrains are “It’s not worth it because of all the work I come back to after” or some form of “the place will fall apart without me.” But there are many others like scheduling, money, the social aspects of work and others.

But what you and your boss are missing are the enormous workplace benefits of taking a vacation. Remember, even if you take your vacation you’ll still be at work 90%-95% of the calendar year. If you’re not at peak effectiveness during this time it could have a DRAMATICALLY larger impact on overall productivity than vacation alone. While taking time off doesn’t guarantee productivity, it can improve your work performance in a number of ways:

Increased Creativity

One of the primary benefits to taking time off from work is that it allows you to get out of the proverbial routine. When you go to work five days a week, six days for many people, you become conditioned to follow a specific pattern. This pattern is designed to get you to work on time and to follow through with the objectives of your job. There isn’t often enough time to truly “recharge the batteries” even with a weekend. Fatigue and routine are rarely hallmarks of creativity. Getting away and really recuperating from the stresses of the job can help you start with a clean slate and reignite creativity.

Increased Energy & Focus

Athletes know that proper rest is essential to proper performance. The same goes for everyone else. Instead of being weighed down by constant pressure, time away allows our mind to reset and our bodies to de-stress from the regular work routine. This results in more energy upon your return. And it isn’t just energy. By clearing your plate of distractions that always seem to build up over the course of days and weeks you will find it easier to focus on the tasks in front of you once you are back in the office.

A Better Attitude

One of the main reasons people want to go on vacation is to get away from the frustrations, irritations and stresses of their work. With all of the work that is put on your plate and the constant call to multitask and do more, today’s work environment is as stressful as ever. This fact only exacerbates the frustration that many workers feel on a daily basis, which can lead to a poor attitude in anyone. While the frustrations may always be there, you may find that you deal with them better after a break from them for a time.

Time to Think

Just because you are away from the office doesn’t mean that you won’t be thinking about work. Many people find that when they get away they are able to think clearer about both small and large things at the workplace and set a new direction once they get back. This is one of the benefits I personally experience on almost every vacation I take. One good idea or course of action.

Additional Patience

“Patience wears thin” is a saying that encapsulates the fact that most people have a limited amount of patience. Many leaders have recognized this and manage their own behavior so that they don’t make important decisions when they are in a state of impatience. Creating a clean break with a vacation is one of the things that fills the tank of patience to the top for all of us.

A Desire to Do More

When you’re tired you don’t often feel like you are up to a challenge or taking on more duties. When you are fully rested, however, you might find yourself actively looking for something more to do. This is especially common in ambitious individuals who have already seen promotion and recognition and know that they usually come from “going that extra mile.”

Better Health (Less Sick Time)

Many studies have been done about the effects of stress on the human body, specifically on the immune system. The more stress that you have in your life, the more likely it is that you will develop maladies that can affect your overall health. By taking a vacation, you can leave the stress behind, allowing your immune system to get back to normal. This way, you can not only feel better mentally and emotionally by taking a vacation, but also improve your physical health.

Embrace New Things

That different environment that you escape to on vacation actually helps you embrace new things when you return. Many leaders have an aversion to new things, they are unknown variables, and many organizations thrive on predictability. Having a pleasant experience in a different or new environment can break through much of this resistance.

Practice “Rolling with the Punches”

Rarely does a vacation go off without a hitch. And given the new or different environments you may be in as outlined above, this is exercises your ability to be flexible. Like an athlete that cross-trains in a different discipline to get stronger in their primary discipline, this is a new environment to practice flexibly adjusting to a changing plan. By going through the experience on vacation you will make your work flexibility that much better.


Have you ever been away from your “daily grind” for a period of time and eventually find that you “just can’t wait to get home?” Almost all of us have at one time or another. Getting away from your regular surroundings and experiencing something new often has the effect of making us appreciate what we left behind; the routine, the familiarity, the accomplishment. It’s not that the vacation was bad, it’s just that you gain some perspective on things you take for granted.

Now of course all of these benefits are mitigated if you don’t truly create that break and are checking in on the office regularly or are receiving e-mails and texts from your boss and team when you are on vacation. But with that one caveat, there are an enormous amount of benefits to getting away on vacation, not the least of which is coming back even better at your job than when you left.



Top 6 Tips for Dealing With Uncertainty

"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." ~ Winston Churchill

"Business is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight." ~Henry R. Luce

Uncertainty is incredibly uncomfortable, but as a leader in today’s organizational environment, it is a persistent reality. Simply looking at the speed in which technology, processes and competitive landscapes changes ensure that uncertainty will be a regular environment that leaders will immersed in. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a proactive stance and grow your way beyond this often debilitating state of mind.

Utilize these six tools when uncertainty creeps into your mind and eventually, they will become second-nature:

Learn More About the Situation

Ignorance is at the heart of uncertainty. One of the reasons that you may be uncertain how to proceed in a situation is because you lack adequate knowledge to make an informed decision. Take the time to investigate the matter from another angle, or at least a little deeper. As you are performing your research, make notes of the pertinent information you encounter.

Create a Plan

If you know what you are going to do, then uncertainty ceases to exist. No matter what the situation, you can develop a plan that will help to relieve your stress and give you more confidence as you move forward. This may be somewhat easier said than done, but with practice you can get better at building flexibility into the plan to adjust to new information.

A plan will stop your mind from playing loops of outcomes that may or may not occur and allow you to focus your attention on other matters.

Have a Bias Towards Action

Great leaders are prone to taking action quickly. Uncertainty can feel a lot like walking through a fog bank where you aren’t sure where to go. The only way to get past it is to go forward. In this case that is action. As you take one action after the other you gain more information and the fog slowly clears.

Couple this with the fact you are taking your mind off of worrying about various outcomes and instead concentrating on an activity and the benefit of action is multiplied.

Calm Your Mind

When you experience uncertainty, you likely have accompanying physical symptoms associated with fear and nervousness. These issues have a negative impact on cognitive function, which may leave you in a negative, unhealthy loop where you feel sick and uncertain continually.

Whether it is listening to music, taking a few soothing breaths or even meditating, it is important to be able to hit the “reset” button so that you can see the issue clearly and are able to tap into your creative ability. A state of fear doesn’t help with either of those.

Do Something Physical

Another way to hit that “reset” button is to do something physical. While you may not initially think that going to the gym is going to help you get through a situation that you are uncertain about, it can. Your uncertainty can trigger the fight-or-flight response, which releases adrenaline and other chemicals into your body.

Since fighting is obviously not a good solution and you cannot run away from your problems, you need to find an alternative way to release the tension in your body or it will affect your thinking.

The idea is to move your body, get your blood and lymph systems stimulated and to enjoy yourself. Do whatever it is that you find enjoyable that will stimulate your body.

Practice Confidence Building

In some ways, confidence is the opposite of uncertain emotions in that the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. Because of this, you need to find ways to increase your confidence outside of the situation which creates feelings of uncertainty.

Change your internal self-talk to positive and empowering messages. Think back to all of the successes that you have had in the past when dealing with uncertain situations. Take up the habit of learning new things and meeting new people (often uncomfortable and with an uncertain outcome). The more confident and self-assured you feel, the easier it will be for you to handle any situation that life throws your way.

Practice these suggestions diligently and you’ll find it easier and easier to deal with the uncertainty that every leader deals with on a regular basis. 



5 Steps That Turn a Mistake Into a Success

"Close scrutiny will show that most "crisis situations" are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are." -Maxwell Maltz

"A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them." ~John C. Maxwell

Of course you don’t want to make mistakes or create problems, but there is a silver lining to that cloud when they occur. It is similar to the “Service Recovery Paradox” where a customer will actually be far more loyal to an organization if the organization makes a mistake and fixes it than they would be if the organization had never made a mistake in the first place. For you personally, and your mistake, it is this fact:

People are far more likely to remember how you dealt with a problem than they are to remember how you created it in the first place.

All you have done when you make a mistake is call attention to yourself. The “verdict”, either good or bad has not necessarily been made yet. If you solve the problem you created, you have cancelled out the disservice you did to yourself in the first place, and may have done yourself a service.

This isn’t meant to give you freedom to run around making careless mistakes, but is meant to get you out of your obsession with your mistake and refocus you on the solution so that the final impression you make (with the attention you didn’t necessarily want in the first place) is a good one. Here is what you need to do:

·         Be constructive – You want to be “issue focused” not pointing fingers and being defensive. This is your time to show how you handle important things when they become your responsibility.

·         Handle it calmly – There should be no sense of panic at what just occurred. Your team takes their cues from you, if you are panicky they will be as well. This is your time to show how you handle pressure.

·         Handle it quickly – Just because you’re calm doesn’t mean you don’t move fast. A general rule is that the quicker a problem is addressed the better. Which is one of the reasons to refocus on the solution instead of the problem in the first place. This is your time to show your ability to quickly turn ideas into reality.

·         Communicate through it – You made the mistake, but you can relay to your team, peers and boss what caused it, what is happening because of it, what you are doing to fix it, and how you are ensuring it doesn’t happen again. This is your time to show your accountability and communication skills.

·         Learn from it – I had a philosophy in management that you could almost make any mistake imaginable…once. The important thing was learning from it and making sure you didn’t make that mistake again. If you show that you learn from your mistakes you show a maturity in your leadership.

Remember that no leader ascends to the top of their profession without being bold in their actions. By demonstrating that you’ve changed as a result of your mistake, you reassure your superiors, peers, and direct reports that you can be trusted with equally important tasks or decisions in the future. Who knows, you may find you are called upon to fix other problems in the organization based on this demonstrated skill.



The 3 Best Ways to Get People to Like You at Work

"We build too many walls and not enough bridges." ~Sir Isaac Newton

"A leader is someone who can do everything him(her)self, but let's other people help him(her)." ~Don Rittner

And no, it doesn't have to do with you throwing them parties, always agreeing with them,  or other shallow efforts at establishing approval. What we are talking about here is not just getting people to like you, we are talking about something deeper, trust and respect. 

The greatest part of your career success will rely on being able to establish trust and respect with your team, peers, and bosses. The most important network you can possibly establish is the one inside your own company. These networks will lead to new positions, promotions, assignments on high-profile initiatives, assistance when most needed, and even job security (“don’t get rid of them, they're fantastic”). If you don’t have the respect and assistance of your coworkers, you undoubtedly will find your job much more difficult. 

Luckily, there are a few areas that can set you apart from others in your ability to foster trust and respect. Some might call them tricks, some might call them manners, but they work every time:

Respect and encourage their insight – People have different experiences and skills, and I insist that everyone has something you can learn from. By asking for their thoughts on matters, or participation in projects, you not only play to their vanity (though that seems a little more devious than it is intended to be), you also have an opportunity to learn from them. People want to be included, and if you are the one including them, they will be appreciative.

Make yourself available for them – People are often “too busy” to assist someone else when they ask for assistance. If you make time for others when they ask for your assistance and expertise you are modeling collaboration. It makes you a resource for them, again something that they appreciate, and it also opens the doors to asking them for assistance when you need it. One favor begs the next. It also shows that you respect them since you are willing to always make time for them (you do the same for the VP or President don’t you).

Praise them for their insight and accomplishments publicly – The greatest thing you can possibly do in business is praise others publicly, especially in front of their boss. Nothing will endear you to others quicker.

Now like I mentioned above, many of you will simply call this basic manners, but we sadly find few of those in most businesses. If you do the above three things consistently, you WILL stand out from the crowd. As leaders we are often too busy attempting to show why we are better than our peers than being the orchestrator of synergies between everyone. Also, you will find yourself in a better environment (friends are always a good thing) and more productive (as you increase the level of teamwork in the organization).

Make these three actions a part of your leadership plan going forward and you will find yourself an ever increasingly important member of your organization's leadership.



The 7 Vital Techniques to Improve Your Listening Skills

"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." ~Ernest Hemingway

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears-by listening to them.” ~Dean Rusk

If there is one skill that can improve your career, it is the ability to listen to others well. Listening shows respect, gives you access to feedback and ideas, helps understanding of requirements and expectations and makes it easier for you to convey your thoughts. Listening is quite simply a foundational skill in your performance.

One of the secrets of those who are great listeners is that it is only partly about them listening. Yes, they need to understand what is being said, but it is just as much (if not even more) about encouraging the other person to share completely what they are thinking at the time. We can all listen, we learned that in kindergarten, but not all of us can access the “whole story” of what the other person is speaking about.

The reason that we see listening skills becoming increasingly rare is that the environment we work in is changing. Communication has shifted away from methods that give us practice listening like phone calls and face to face meeting, towards email, texting, and Skype that don’t require listening skills at all. So when you do get an opportunity to practice, what should you be focusing on? Start with these:

Non-verbal cues – One of the most overlooked areas of listening is not actually listening to the content, it’s looking at their body language and the tone in their voice. You can get a gauge on frustration, excitement, panic, disinterest and any other number of emotions. This can give you a great picture of how the speaker feels about the subject which lets you know how to react better to what they’re saying.

Benefit: Extra information and background on the topic

Show respect – Let me ask you something. Have you ever heard someone in a meeting or conference call asked a question and they respond, “I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?” That’s disrespect. It is almost a cliché when talking about listening skills, but it bears mentioning because it is so important. Engage in eye contact, eliminate any distractions, take notes, whatever it takes for you to pay attention. Yes, you will listen better, but by respecting the person enough to pay attention you are going to encourage further discussion and opinion from them. Remember, great listeners encourage more feedback and discourse.

Benefit: More information in the instant case, and encouragement for more information in the future

Never interrupt – A pause isn’t always a pause. Too many times we can’t wait to throw in our two-cents, give the solution, or ask a question. The problem is that when you interrupt the person, you throw off their train of thought and compromise the ability to obtain all of the information. It also gets at a disrespect similar to the above. If you wait for them to finish you are validating what they say and that encourages them to tell you everything.

Benefit: Getting the entire story

Listen for ideas, not just words – Not everyone is an amazing communicator, and not everyone who has an idea has thought of all the possible opportunities. Great listeners listen between the lines for the real thoughts that the person is having. They will also follow the logic that the person is using, and by doing so reveal further steps that could be taken or opportunities that might have been missed.

Benefit: Better understanding and enhanced ideas

Clarify understanding – And just like everyone isn’t a great communicator, there’s a decent chance YOU aren’t a perfect listener yet, and missed something in the message. When they have finished what they were saying, paraphrase what they said and repeat it back to them. Make sure you got it right and ensure that you got the “point” they were trying to make in addition to the details. Only after you repeat it back and have it right, do you ask questions to clarify further. Making sure that they know you heard what they said will open them up to those questions and feedback you have.

Benefit: Clarification

Defer judgement – Many times when we listen to someone, we can tell very early on that the point they are trying to make is wrong. Either they don’t have all of the information, the right perspective, or they haven’t thought about all of the repercussions. Even in instances like this it’s important to hold back judgement and listen intently. Not only is this polite and respectful, but what you will find is that there are kernels of truth in their thoughts and opinions and this may give you the seeds of improving the course of action or coming up with new ideas. Even wrong opinions and thoughts have useful information if you look and listen hard enough.

Benefit: New ideas and perspective

Put them at ease – When people are comfortable that you are interested, they are likely to share more. Think back to times when your boss was engaged with what you were saying versus times they were disinterested. In which case were you more apt to share more information? Repeating back what someone said to acknowledge it, nodding your head in understanding of what they said, and simply smiling as they speak puts them at ease and ensures they say everything they feel that they need to. The other trick is to stay silent. Part of this is manners and ensuring they are actually done talking, but it also shows interest in hearing more. Many times it is what comes after a 3 second pause of silence that is the most impactful thing said in the whole conversation.

Benefit: Get the juicy details

If you can work on your listening skills and put a focus on applying them then your access to information, opinions, and ideas will increase dramatically. Too many of us cut ourselves off from all of this by choosing the wrong communication channels or rushing through every interaction. You’ll find every communication touchpoint is more worthwhile if you invest yourself and your focus on them.